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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Maritime News-September

Adaptation to Marine Environments, a comparative study between Norway and Patagonia

Maritime Schools for Navigation, Engineering and Maritime Law in South Africa

Underwater Archaeology in China, Lectures at UCLA

Underwater Archaeology Field School with the Ecomuseum of the Cape of Calliveria, Menorca, Spain.

Maritime Experiential Museum & Aquarium opens in Singapore. Replica of the Jewel of Muscat (an Arab dhow)

Cape May, New Jersey. Residents continue to plan a Maritime Museum despite setbacks

International Congress of Maritime Museum Conference at the Mariner's Museum, Oct. 12-15


Early Islamic Port discovered in Yavneh-Yam, Israel

Cape Byron
Stay in an Australian Lighthouse Hotel

Excavations in the port town Kochuveli, India dated to the first and second century BCE. Finds included a man built pond and a statue of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva (a bodhisattva who ensures safe crossing and landing for sailors).

Today and yesterday in the port town of Kadikoy, Turkey

About Santorini-Ancient Minoan Culture and Volcanic Eruptions


The History of Port, the greatest of  Maritime Wines

Slovenian Boat Show

32nd International Marine Art Exhibition at Mystic Seaport, Sept 25-Nov 13

Paddle the Navesink Day, New Jersey

Book Release-Monsters, Myths and Legends, by Terry Breverton


Odyssey Marine finds S.S. Gairssopa, estimated to have sunk with 200 tonnes of silver

The Treasure Hunter vs. Maritime Archaeology debate continues

WANTED-Artifacts stoln from the Malacca River in Malaysia, sold in Singapore


Plan for a naval heritage center in Plymouth torpedoed

City of Adelaide lifeboat
City of Adelaide lifeboat deteriorating rapidly, becoming an "eyesore"

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Prehistoric Logboat Conservation

In 2009, I had the opportunity to assist Sarah Watkins-Kenney and Lauren McMillan with taking samples from logboats at Pettigrew State Park. These boats had undergone sucrose conservation treatments in the 1980s and will need to be retreated because of the increasing deterioration of both sucrose and boats. The logboats were on display in a small shed near the lake which offered some protection from pollutants and weather conditions. The lack of temperature controls within this building led to an increased rate of sucrose deterioration.

The logboats are now awaiting conservation in an environmentally controlled building and their old shack has been demolished. These two canoes were one of a total of thirty canoes found in Lake Phelps. These were discovered in 1985 and twenty three were recorded in the late 80s.

Logboat from Lake Phelps at Pettigrew State Park. Photo by Lauren McMillan.
The Maritime Studies Conservation Lab at East Carolina University is currently conserving a log boat from Georgia. Nicole Wittig and Susanne Grieve, who are overseeing the conservation of the logboat sent me the following update and picture:

Discovered in a mid-river bar, this portion of a prehistoric dugout canoe was hewn from a single log. Currently the dugout is undergoing PEG treatment and will remain in solution for several more months before the drying process begins. In the weeks to come, samples from the canoe will be placed under scanning electron microscope (SEM) to determine effectiveness of PEG impregnation.

Emily Powell and Susanne Grieve in the PEG tank, mechanically cleaning the logboat. Photo by MSCL.

This last weekend, I visited Weedon Island Preserve and learned about their long logboat.  The Weedon Island Logboat is 39'11" but may have originally been even longer. In March, the canoe was excavated and is currently undergoing the initial stages of conservation. Phyllis Kolianos and Dr. Robert Austin are overseeing this project and discusses both conservation and curation (including environmental controls and exhibit design) during news interviews.

The dugout is soaking in a PEG1450 solution. Unfortunately, algae is growing like crazy which is a very common problem with waterlogged wood conservation. The algae problem continues and a number of solutions have been attempted. I had the chance to go and take a look at this dugout and seeing it first hand helped illustrated the significance of the problem. Luckily, both Phyllis Kolianos and Dr. Robert Austin are dedicating a lot of time and research to this project, to make sure that the dugout receives the best treatment possible.

Other prehistoric canoes of the Southeast-
Chattooga Canoe, SC
Cooper River Canoe, SC
Newnan's Lake Canoes, FL
Lake Munson Canoe, FL

For two decades, maritime and nautical archaeologists have focused on shipwrecks, for the most part sea-going vessels. In the United States, there has been very little focus on prehistoric boats or vessels, but I think this is starting to change. Two of these sites, Lake Phelps and Newnan's Lake had dozens of prehistoric canoes spanning thousands of years of habitation. Where else will you find a cluster of boats that offer such a diacronic view of maritime culture? There have also been an increasing number of fish weirs recorded in archaeological ecavations (Elliott 2003; Phelps 1989). I hope that the interest in prehistoric maritime archaeology continues to grow.

Native American Fish Weir. Photo by Joe Cook,

Phelps, David S. 1989. Ancient Pots and Dugout Canoes: Indian Life as Revealed by Archaeology at Lake Phelps.

Elliott, Rita Folse. 2003. Georgia's Inland Waters.

*Additional information added September 19, 2011

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Book Review-The Archaeology of Maritime Landscapes

Ford, Ben (ed.). 2011. "The Archaeology of Maritime Landscapes." When the Land Meets the Sea, Vol. 2. Springer, New York.

It was an interesting read and in many ways a very necessary first step, but the various authors are all over the place in their definition of maritime landscape. This may be in part because of the infancy of the field and in part because there are overlapping areas of study that seem to all get grouped under the fancy new (since 1992) heading of "maritime cultural landscape".

One would hope that this book would help a poorly defined field gain some boundaries and clarity. It fails to do so. In The Archaeology of Maritime Landscapes, the broadest definition of maritime is used; any human activity on or with the water. Another issue is the term "landscape". It seems like maritime cultural archaeology that has little to do with landscape studies often get thrown in the Maritime Cultural Landscape handbasket. Articles that do not use an archaeological landscape methodology are utilizing the term for lack of a better one.

For example, the first chapter, "Searching for Santarosae: Surveying the Submerged Landscapes for Evidence of Paleocoastal Habitation off  California's Northern Channel Islands" by Watts et al. discusses further investigations in the Channel Islands by Jon Erlandson, Torben C. Rick, and crew. They began searching for submerged sites because of sea level change and utilized maritime archaeology techniques and methodology to do so. Searching for a submerged landscape is not the same as studying a submerged landscape. It doesn't seem that this was even a submerged landscape search, as they were searching for sites and artifacts rather than paleolandscapes.

Kristin Hoppa, a student conducting research in the Channel Islands presented at the Society for American Archaeology 2011 Conference. She examined the paleo streambeds, island conditions (lee and windward), parent rock material, and paleobotany in comparison with the archaeological finds and sites. This was essentially a maritime cultural lanscape study, although she may not have known the term. Or perhaps an island cultural landscape study? But one could split academic fields indefinitely.

Thus our first chapter is actually a submerged cultural resource survey.

Other chapters that are also submerged cultural resources surveys include: "Rock, Paper, Shipwreck! The Maritime Cultural Lanscape of Thunder Bay" by Warne R. Lusardi and "The Richest River in the World: The Maritime Cultural Landscape of the Mouth of the Rio Chagres, Republica de Panama" by James P. Delgado. Lusardi does discuss some of the shoreline structures that are now submerged but does not put these items in context. Delgado point out that the Rio Chagres is a maritime highway, and he seems to understand that maritime cultural landscapes include shoreline structures (Gatun Dam, WWII pill boxes) as well as the natural geography (historic mudbank), unfortunately the majority of this article simply lists shipwrecks and associated material culture.

Another article, "Potential Contributions of a Maritime Cultural Lanscape Approach to Submerged Prehistoric Resources, Northwestern Gulf of Mexico" by Evans and Keith, focuses entirely on submerged landscape surveys. They discuss the neccessity of submerged landscape surveys in the predictive modeling of submerged prehistoric resources.

There were several maritime material culture studies as well: "Testing the Paleo-Maritime Hypothesis for  Glacial Lake Iroqouis" by Schulz et al., "Ship to Shore: Inuit, Early Europeans, and Maritime Landscapes in the Northern Gulf of St. Lawrence" by Fitzhugh et al., and "Material Culture and Maritime Identity: Identifying Maritime Subcultures through Artifacts" by Hatch.

Some well written articles about maritime culture or maritime anthropology (distinct from maritime ethnography) discuss the meaning and importance of the sea to a maritime people: "The Binary Relationship of Sea and Land" by Westerdahl,  and "'What Do You Want to Catch?': Exploring the Maritime Cultural Landscapes of the Queenscliff Fishing Community" by Duncan.

The incorporation of cognitive and social activities as part of the maritime cultural landscape was suggested by Westerdahl himself in his later writings and is related to a similar development in cultural landscape studies (Tilley 1994) This is an interesting idea and works theoretically, yet it requires one to dispose of the methodology of landscape archaeology.

Several articles were strictly maritime cutlural landscape studies that examined the "total topography of the waterfront area" including transit points, sea routes, natural havens and place names (Westerdahl 1992). These included "Place of Special Meaning: Westerdahl's Comet, 'Agency,' and the concept of the 'Maritime Cultural Landscape'" by Flatman, "Temporal Changes in a  Precontact and Contact Period Cultural Lanscape Along the Southern Rhode Island Coast" by Jazwa, and "Modeling Maritime Culture: Galveston, Texas" by Keith and Evans.

Some of the terminology problems are evident in the titles of the articles. However, the very loose interpretation of maritime cutlural landscape did not go unrecognized by Ford:

"The objective of this book is not to present the study of maritime landscape as a unified field; it clearly is not. [ . . . ] Among the authors are scholars who have fully adopted a maritime cultural landsacpe approach and others who are experimenting with it within an existing research agenda."

And you have to give these authors a lot of credit for researching maritime cultural landscape studies and rethinking their own research. If those of us in the field of maritime studies, maritime archaeology and nautical archaeology are still developing the theoretical foundations for maritime cultural landscape studies, how can we expect others to apply this theory?

I would suggest reading the preface (Stewart) and the introduction (Ford) and then carefully select the articles that match your research: whether it be submerged cultural resource study, paleolandscape predictive modeling, maritime material culture studies, maritime ethnography, or in fact, maritime cultural landscape studies.
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Maritime Culture by Whitney Rose Petrey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License